Imagine you’re hiring a lead developer for your hot new tech startup. That developer must be a ‘rock star’ coder; fast, creative, up on the latest technology and trends, and always delivering quality work. You want someone who can help design the architecture one day, and test the next, and all with endless energy and a positive attitude.
Congratulations! You’ve found the perfect person for the job. Imagine you are welcoming them on their first day, beaming with excitement that you found this perfect gem. Are you picturing it? Great.
So, what do they look like?
Did you give your perfect hire a gender, an age? Perhaps you even gave them a skin color, style, or accent? Don’t worry, this is normal; it’s how our brains are wired. Welcome to what is called “unconscious” or “implicit” bias.
Unfortunately, this kind of bias is an inevitable factor in the traditional hiring process—and it’s making it harder for you to find great candidates for your jobs.
Fortunately, it can be overcome.
The unfortunate truth about unconscious bias
Everybody has unconscious bias. Everybody – regardless of your age, gender, skin color, whatever.
Unconscious bias is a bias that we don’t realize we have. This bias is learned in a thousand different ways, from the advertisements we watch and the media we consume to the things our parents and teachers said to us as kids. In fact, as multiple studies have shown, children as young as three or four already show bias toward people of certain ethnicities, genders, and levels of perceived attractiveness.
So why does this happen? Well, as humans, we’re hardwired to make snap judgements—it is how we are able to navigate the thousands of decisions we make every day - in other words, these snap judgements allow us to shortcut from “what is the right shampoo for my hair?” to “I need to get this shampoo for my hair”. Consider what would happen if we didn’t have these shortcuts to help us at the grocery store – it would take us 8 hours just to choose what we are going to eat for lunch!
In many cases, this mental shortcut is helpful—it saves us from a lifetime of indecision. But when it comes to hiring, it can cause big problems.
When we hear a job title, our brain takes that pesky shortcut and rather than finding the right person for the job, we unconsciously favor candidates for the wrong reasons.
When evaluating individuals for jobs, we tend to favor the kind of people we’re most accustomed to (which is often people who are similar to ourselves), which may lead to a prevalent lack of diversity.
This often goes beyond the well-known racial and gender biases. There are dozens of other biases that may creep in as well, like attitudes towards age, disabilities, sexual orientation, and school pedigree. It certainly doesn’t help that common requirements in the hiring process often lead to more bias—like wanting a candidate that has no gaps on their resume, which for example, eliminates people who temporarily leave the workforce to raise their family.
Bias in hiring has a negative impact. It leads us to choose the familiar candidates over the right candidates. It leads to unfair hiring practices which can negatively impact corporate culture and corporate brand. It leads to risk of legal issues for you and your company. It may also impact your corporate diversity objectives, which can lead to a costly mistake, but more about that in the future.
All is not lost
There are steps we can take remove bias from the hiring process (and it doesn’t include a robot hiring the candidate!).
Be aware. Knowing we all have implicit bias will enable us to counter its impact. For example, when reviewing candidates, do you prefer one person over another because of something trivial, like the fact that they went to your alma mater – if so, then stop. Don’t know your biases? Try taking Harvard’s Implicit Association Test to get a sense of your own biases.
Define what you need. As covered in a previous blog post, if you define the requirements for the job upfront, and evaluate all candidates against those predefined needs, you will take a huge step forward in removing bias from yourself, your company culture, and are protecting other employees who may be involved in the hiring process.
Revolutionize. Change your process so your team’s brains don’t have a chance to take those shortcuts (and introduce bias). Remove resumes, ask the right questions, and focus on what matters.
At career.place, we’re committed to revolutionizing the hiring process and wiping out unconscious (and conscience) bias. Our software solution allows you to bypass those items that lead to the majority of bias – resumes, cover letters, location, candidate name, etc. Narrow down your candidate pool based on the things that really matter—all before anyone has a chance to introduce bias into your hiring practices.
To find out more about what we’re doing, contact us today.